Google+ Authentic Parenting: When and How to Tell a Child They are Adopted

Friday, March 8, 2013

When and How to Tell a Child They are Adopted

Written by Bethany Johansson

BannerFans.comFor parents of adopted children, one of the most difficult challenges that they ever face involves if, when and how to tell their kids that they are adopted. Feelings of anxiety and fear of the child's reaction often build up into something much more daunting than the situation truly calls for.
Experts who report to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry suggest that the adoptive parents take a proactive, positively fueled role in revealing the nature of the child's place in the family, embracing trust and love throughout the process.  

Varying Opinions on When and How to Share the Truth
Because every child and his or her family is unique and operates in a way that is different from the next, it is important to remember that there is no such thing as a universal “right” answer when and how it comes to an issue as sensitive as this.

Telling Them Early  

Image: Paul L Dineen
Some experts recommend telling children that they are adopted right away, even beginning as early as the first day they come home. This method, they say, ensures that the news is out on the table before any doubts or apprehension clouds the parents' thoughts regarding sharing the truth.
When a parent or couple put the conversation off for just a few days, they are statistically more likely to keep this important information hidden for weeks, months and eventually years. Then, when the child, teenager or adult is confronted with the truth after so much time has passed, he or she may feel lied to and betrayed.
Of course, the age of the child is an important factor to consider when implementing this method. Still, proponents state that even children as young as one or two years old should be taught that they are adopted despite their inability to understand at the time. If they are reminded in subtle ways from the start, the information gradually becomes simple fact in their minds rather than delivered as a sudden blow when they are old enough to comprehend the situation.
In an interview article from, the adoptive parents of Katey Mobley, a young girl who was adopted when she was three years old, say that "from the moment we brought Katy home, we wanted her to feel that her adoption was a positive event," Katie’s mother, Marilynn Mobley, recalls using gentle reminders like “We are so lucky that we got to adopt you,” and “Our family was so happy when you became a part of it.” The result, she says, is that Katie, now 14, “feels comfortable asking her mom and dad question about her biological parents” and her adoption in general.  

Waiting to Share
There are far fewer experts who advise parents to wait to inform their child they are adopted suggesting that sharing this type of weighty information too early may confuse a child or cause them to experience a negative conflict of emotions. Their concern lies in the fact that misunderstanding the situation may make the child feel unwanted by his or her birth parents or unworthy of their love. While this may indeed occur in a number of cases, there are ways to avoid it. If the child is old enough to comprehend language well, preface the news with reinforcement of your love. Reassure your child that the family you have built together is strong because he is a part of it and always will be.

Every family has to make a decision that best suits their needs and there is no one right answer. Brian Moskowitz is an adopted child and adoption attorney so he “understands firsthand the joys and complexities of the adoption process” from both a professional and personal point of view. Brian says that with adoption being as complex as it is [from both a legal and personal perspective] it is important to seek the advice of trusted adoption professional including trained counselors and legal experts throughout the process. As important as seeking the advice of adoption experts is it is even more important to make a decision based on you and your child’s personal circumstances.  

While most experts do agree that it is best to tell a child early on this may not always be possible due to various circumstances. Whatever the case may be, the question of when to tell your child they were adopted, while very important is only second to how you should tell your child and who should tell them. One thing upon which all experts do agree is that the adoptive parents themselves should be the people to tell a child that he or she is adopted. Finding out about something so utterly significant from a friend, family member or on their own can have unexpected effects on a child's self-esteem and capacity for trust. Whether you begin to introduce the information gradually at an early age or feel that it is better to wait until you are sure your child will understand what you're saying, make sure that it is from you that they hear the news first.

About the author:
Bethany Johansson is an avid blogger who often writes about family, adoption, and natural health related topics. When Bethany is not writing, she can usually be found taking pictures of urban landscapes, drinking coffee in her favorite cafes, or watching Christmas movies regardless of the time of the year.



  1. I am half adopted - my mother remarried when I was a toddler, her new husband adopted me, and I've never met my biological father. I always said that they did things just right, because I've never not known. They never had a "tell me" moment, because it was always just a known fact, completely unremarkable and undramatic.

  2. Issa, that's great, you had love from your wonderful parents.

  3. Issa, it is great you were raised with love.


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